The World of International Organizations

Slow progress getting more kids in classes

Afghan children jn the first school in southern Helmand Province's Garmsir District built by local government with help from coalition forces (AN/Reece Lodder)

WASHINGTON — Over the past decade, there has been only slight progress in sending more children to classrooms worldwide and around one-sixth of school-age kids are not getting an education, UNESCO reported on Friday.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said its latest data on the world’s out-of-school children reveals about 258.4 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school last year, representing one-sixth of the global population of this age group.

The number of children, adolescents and youth who were excluded from education fell steadily in the decade following 2000, but that progress appears to have leveled off in recent years. And while the number of out-of-school children appears to have dropped from 262 million in 2017, UNESCO said, the decrease is largely due to a methodological change in the way that the indicators are calculated.

The decline in out-of-school rates and numbers over the past 15 years also has occurred with a reduction in gender disparity at the global level, according to the United Nations agency.

“Girls continue to face the greatest barriers. According to our projections, 9 million girls of primary school age will never start school or set foot in a classroom, compared to about 3 million boys,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director-general.

“Four of those 9 million girls live in sub-Saharan Africa, where the situation gives cause for even greater concern,” she said. “We must, therefore, continue to center our actions on girls’ and women’s education as an utmost priority.”

The wealth divide

Some 59 million, or 23 percent of the total in 2o18, were children of primary school ages between about six to 11 years old. Another 62 million, or 24 percent of the total, were adolescents of lower secondary school age from 12 to 14 years old.

The remaining 138 million, or 53 percent of the total, were youth of upper secondary school age about 15 to 17 years old.

UNESCO says the data also highlights the gap between the world’s richest and poorest countries. Sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia have the highest out-of-school rates; Europe and North America have the lowest.

About 19 percent of primary-age children were not in school in low-income countries, compared to just 2 percent in high-income countries. The gap grows wider still for older children and youth, the U.N. agency said.

About 61 percent of all youth between the ages of 15 and 17 were out of school in low-income countries, compared to 8 percent in high-income countries.

Peace for education

Some 35 percent of the out-of-school children worldwide of primary school age live in areas of conflict, according to Global Partnership for Education, a Washington-based global fund for education in developing nations that has received nearly US$5.7 billion since 2004, including US$1.1 billion from the United Kingdom, its biggest donor.

“Students are forced out of school, making them more vulnerable and at risk of violence, forced labor, and permanent displacement, without a guarantee that they can go back to school when they arrive at a safer destination,” said GPE, which calculates 75 million children between the ages of 3 and 18 are deprived of their right to education because they live in countries facing war and violence.

“Ensuring that children have access to education during conflict and crises protects their rights, instills a sense of normalcy, and fosters resilience, inclusion and tolerance,” it said, “supporting the long-term processes of rebuilding and peace-building.”

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